Authorities in Montenegro say an investigation shows that Russian nationalists were behind an alleged coup attempt that included a plot to assassinate the country’s pro-Western leader because of his plans to have the Balkan nation join NATO.
Chief Special Prosecutor Milivoje Katnic said on November 6 that investigators have concluded that "nationalists from Russia" organized a criminal group that planned to break into parliament and kill Montenegrin Prime Minster Milo Djukanovic on October 16 -- the day of the former Yugoslav republic's parliamentary elections.
Katnic said investigators had not discovered evidence of direct involvement by the Russian state in the planned coup and attempted assassination aimed at bringing a pro-Russian coalition into power.
Some 20 Serbian and Montenegrin citizens, including a former commander of Serbia's special police forces, were arrested in Montenegro during the October 16 elections and are accused of trying to stage the coup and kill the prime minister.
Authorities in Belgrade reportedly deported an unspecified number of Russian operatives who were monitoring Djukanovic's movements from within the territory of neighboring Serbia.
The Kremlin has denied any involvement.
NATO in December 2015 formally invited Montenegro to join the alliance.
Djukanovic’s government signed an accession protocol with NATO in May 2016.
Djukanovic announced on October 26 that he was resigning as prime minister, but his office said in a statement that his decision was "carefully planned" and had "nothing to do with the alleged coup."
That statement also accused Moscow of supporting parties opposed to Djukanovic's goal of bringing Montenegro into the European Union and NATO.
His decision to step down has been seen by many as part of a transition within Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists aimed at improving the country's changes of EU membership.
Djukanovic will remain in the post of chairman of his party.
Deputy Prime MInister Dusko Markovic has been nominated to replace Djukanovic. Markovic previously had been the chief of Montenegro's state security
The Democratic Party of Socialists came in first in the October 16 election but will need to form a coalition to stay in government.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP and TASS